Music | CD Revue: Hold Steady, Dennis Wilson, Kaskade 

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Hold Steady Stay Positive
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It’s hard to defend The Hold Steady, it really is. Detractors aren’t wrong when complaining about Craig Finn’s sing-speak vocals, and their standard bar-rock sound is nothing to write home about. That’s why it’s a shame that some people will not hear Stay Positive. While they don’t stray from their musical dealings with drugs, booze and religion, Positive continues the band’s … er, steady trajectory as the most important thing to happen to rock music in the last 10 years. No other band can achieve non-ironic nostalgia, as evidenced by a title track that references hardcore bands-of-yore Youth of Today and 7 Seconds, or inspire heart-felt devotion (“Let this be my annual reminder that we can all be something bigger”) on the opening track “Constructive Summer.” One major surprise is “Both Crosses” a brooding trance that hints of Finn’s rumored voice-lessons. (Vagrant)

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Dennis Wilson Pacific Ocean Blue
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Despite the troubles Wilson faced in his life post-Beach Boys (drug problems, inadequacy issues, Charles Manson ties) Pacific Ocean Blue stands as testament to his artistic prowess. After years of being out of print, Legacy Records reissues Pacific Ocean Blue, along with Wilson’s lost-masterpiece follow-up, Bambu, in an impressive two-disc set. While Pacific showcases his successful disassociation with the Beach Boys sound (it must have been a cloudy day at the beach when he wrote the beautifully heart wrenching “Thoughts of You”), the real treasures appear on Bambu. “Are You Real” is a brooding mini-epic with layered synthesizers that builds to a menacing climax, and “Constant Companion” is Caribbean funk with a full horn section and backing choir. Wilson’s deteriorated voice, the subject of much ire back in the ’70s, sounds soulful and unique now, inspiring modern rockers like Spoon’s Britt Daniel. Like Brian Wilson’s SMiLE, it’s good to see Bambu finally get the release it deserves. (Sony Legacy)

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Kaskade Strobelight Seduction
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House music is a contradiction, almost by definition. Mainly relegated to posh clubs, house artists must find a way to be aggressive and passive—allowing dancers the opportunity to shake it while making it easy for the uber-hip to sit there and look cool/detached. Kaskade, however, fails to find this balance and falters into derivativeness and mediocrity. It sounds as though he’s utilized all the presets that Acid Pro has to offer, so that each song drifts together with cookie cutter beats and flanger/underwater effects most bands ditched ten years ago. The female vocals strive for sexiness but only come off as whispery and DJ Sammy rip-offish. The album’s highlight, “Angel on My Shoulder,” tones down the atmospherics and turns up a grinding beat against soulful vocals. (Ultra Records)

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Ryan Bradford

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